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The Wrath of Achilles: Critical Analysis of the Iliad

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Table of contents

  1. • Themes
  2. • Reasons
  3. • Wrath Subdues

The Iliad is an epic poem created by Homer a legendary Greek author from the period of 800 BCE. This magnificent poem is considered to be one of the earliest pieces of literature. Although Homer receives all the credit for his creation, it is still not clear whether only one person was involved in making this epic poem. The Iliad tells a story which is centred around the last year of the Trojan War which was between the Greeks and the Trojans, and focuses on The Wrath of Achilles. The story revolves around several themes including Glory of War, Fate, Death etc.

Achilles was the greatest fighter of the Greek army. His fate was to either live long at his home and with luxury or die young fighting in a war and receive eternal glory and fame. Even after numerous attempts to avoid the latter situation he could not escape it.

• Themes

  • a) Glory of War: Right from the beginning, the text seemed like it was being partial towards characters who were involved in the war. For example, Paris who did not participate in any aspects of the war was despised by his family and his lover. On the other hand, Achilles who chose to fight, leaving his lifelong comfort behind, was celebrated and praised. Basically, the characters were assessed according to their power and valour.
  • b) Pride: This is one of the most significant themes which recurs through different perspective. For instance, in most parts of the poem Achilles is seen sulking over Agamemnon seizing his war prize which lead to Patroclus leading the army. All of this was a chain reaction to Achilles holding on to his pride. Similarly, Agamemnon’s pride is shown when he captures Briseis because Achilles hurts his pride as he goes against him by taking away Chryses. But he lets go of his pride and tries to get Achilles back in the army.
  • c) Military glory or kleos: The characters in the poem are always put in a situation where they are supposed to choose among two different choices. Among which one is to fight in the war and acquire kleos, i.e., eternal glory and fame in the eyes of others or to stay away from the struggle and live a long life in comfort. For example, Paris chose to spend time with Helen instead of dying in the war, accordingly, he was despised by others. Similarly, Hector chose to sacrifice luxury and his family to protect the city, as he knew dying in the war will be the only way to earn kleos.
  • d) Alienation: This theme is visible in Achilles’ actions. In the initial stage of Achilles’ wrath, he withdraws himself from the war, hence, alienated from the society. In the next stage his wrath is magnified and substitutes with the former rage. At this point, Achilles gets alienated from humanity.

• Reasons

The initial stage of Achilles’ wrath was when Agamemnon hurt his pride by taking away his war prize, a woman named Briseis. This was to retaliate Achilles taking away Chryses, Agamemnon’s war prize. This caused Achilles to withdraw from the fight against Trojans. Later Agamemnon apologizes to Achilles as the Greek Army started to break down without Achilles’ support. However, Achilles held on to his pride and rejected his apology.

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Patroclus, a close friend of Achilles, leads the army wearing Achilles’ armour and basically disguising himself as Achilles. Hector, commander of the Trojan army and the brother of Paris (who eloped with Helen to troy which was also the cause of the Trojan war), found Patroclus and fought him thinking he is Achilles. By the end of the fight Patroclus dies. It was at this point when Achilles’ wrath magnifies. But also, at this point he drops his ego and pride to avenge Patroclus. His initial wrath was replaced with even greater wrath. Achilles shows inhumane level of rage. He kills Hector and then mutilates his corpse ruthlessly. But still Achilles was unable to forego his rage.

• Wrath Subdues

Towards the end of the poem, Achilles still hasn’t buried and properly mourned for Patroclus and he was still desecrating Hector’s body. At his camp, Achilles started mourning for Patroclus but he still couldn’t bury Patroclus’s body. Then one-night Patroclus appears in his dream, he pleads Achilles to hold his funeral so he can rest in peace in the land of the dead. So, the next day Achilles gives Patroclus a proper burial with an elaborate ceremony. He arranges a series of competition to honour Patroclus’s death.

Achilles continued to abuse Hector’s body. He was still detached from his human feelings. King Priam, Hector’s father, comes out on his chariot with treasure as ransom to get back his son’s body. He meets Achilles and starts begging for Hector’s body. Priam tearfully explains the love for his son. He then asks Achilles to ponder about his relationship with his own father, Peleus. This subdues Achilles’ wrath and makes him weep. He accepts the ransom and gives back the mutilated corpse to Priam.

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The Wrath of Achilles: Critical Analysis of the Iliad. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“The Wrath of Achilles: Critical Analysis of the Iliad.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022,
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